Thursday, December 31, 2009

On church...

It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community. He committed the entire work of salvation to that community. It was not that a community gathered round an idea, so that the idea was primary and the community secondary. It was that a community called together by the deliberate choice of the Lord Himself, and re-created in Him, gradually sought - and is seeking - to make explicit who He is and what He has done. The actual community is primary; the understanding of what it is comes second.

Leslie Newbigin, Household of God

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jesus Talks About His Church

This article was passed on to me this morning. Perhaps it's a little tongue in cheek but I think it gets the point across.

Jesus Talks About His Church

Brian Proffit interviewed Jesus of Nazareth, also called The Christ, founder of the Christian faith, about the church that has claimed his name.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Jesus. There was a lot going on with your birthday and all, and I appreciate you setting aside this time.

Photo of Jesus not availableI did not come to be served, but to serve.1

That's a great attitude, and we really want to thank you because this has been a difficult period economically, but in general many of us still have it really good. We finally figured out this whole thing about you owning the cattle on a thousand hills and our Father knowing how to give good gifts.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.2

Well yeah, but you want us to have the desires of our heart, right? And prosperity...

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possesions.3

Maybe we should move on. Much has been said lately about a movement; some call it being externally focused, some call it missional. What do you think about this?

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.4

And a light hidden inside a church building can't be seen, I get it. Glad we're on the right track there. Well, we're certainly known more in the outside world. We've got people picketing abortion clinics, people invading funerals of gays, and lots more. There's even a yard display in California of somebody dressed up like you blowing Santa Claus away with a double-barrel shotgun!

You may have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.5

Oh...well, of course we still love. Our church is the friendliest in town. We have a pot luck together every week, and shake hands with each other every Sunday.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?6

Well sure, we try to love everyone. But there are always going to be conflicts. And at least we come together on Sunday and give our 10...well, you know, we try to give a little something to the church and we sing songs to you.

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.7

That's asking a lot there, Jesus. I mean some people just really get under your skin, you know?

If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.8

Yeah, well, it's not like there's that much to forgive. There have been some significant scandals among people in the church, and at least you won't find me in that list.

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get."

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God have mercy on me, a sinner."

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.9

But we don't hang out with all those depraved people out there. We meet for church and for Bible study and for small group and try to keep each other safe from the world.

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.10

There's a lot of tough stuff here, Jesus. A lot of it was significant when you were on earth, but isn't really relevant in the 21st century, right? I mean, the world is different now so that doesn't all still apply, right?

Hello? Jesus? Hmm, we must have gotten disconnected...

1Mark 10:45
2Matt. 6:19-21
3Luke 12:15
4Matt. 5:13-16
5Matt. 5:43-45
6Matt. 5:46-47
7Matt. 5:23-24
8Matt. 6:14
9Luke 18:10-14
10Matt. 9:12-13

Copyright © 2009, BP Resources, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

"I know God will not give me anything I cannot handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much."

~ Mother Teresa

True story.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Unplugged

I have spent the last couple of days, the Christmas holidays, with my family on my parents' acreage just outside of Stony Plain. It is good to spend time with family. More about that later, I'm sure. One of the added bonuses to the whole things is that being there makes it easy to unplug. I don't really need my phones (yes, plural) because, well, I'm on holidays. To make it even better, Mom and Dad are on dial up internet. Now, for those of you don't know the horrors of dial up, consider yourself lucky. It is honestly painful. Truly. So, since there was nothing that pressing (no offense to any of you who I did not connect with over those couple of days) that required me to submit myself to that kind of torture, I just didn't. No computer. No email. No any of it. And it was really nice.

That said, I'm back and ready to go again. I've got some posting to do. See you again soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“It’s not so much the gospel that is the secret to reaching people…but the clothes in which we dress our Lord.” (Arnell Arn Tessoni, former church planting director with the American Baptist Churches)

This got me thinking a bit about (again) what picture of Jesus we are portraying. I'm sure I've said this before but when I read scripture, I see Jesus as someone who was attractive in his values and his practices to people who knew him, barring the pharisees of course. He drew crowds wherever he went. People left their homes, dropped what they were doing, forgot their lunch and hung on his every word.

Today we hear more about people hurt and disillusioned by what they know of Jesus.

Since he hasn't changed, it makes me curious what kind of picture they're seeing. Seems to me it might just be a bit distorted.
I stumbled on another great blog this morning, this one from a couple of pastors who lead a church in Las Vegas who are really searching out what it means to live out the grace of Jesus and be the People of the Second Chance.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in."

~ Frederick Buechner

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A couple of years ago, Time magazine put out a list of the 7 essential Christmas programs to watch.

Here's the list:

1. BING CROSBY AND DAVID BOWIE'S DUET
2. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
3. DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
4. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER
5. SEINFELD'S "THE STRIKE" (A.K.A. THE FESTIVUS EPISODE)
6. THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
7. THE YULE LOG


Two things that I noticed. First, why seven!? Second, does anyone else think it's a bit weird that the yule log is on the list? Really? Why not Frosty the Snowman? Or really, just about anything else. The Yule Log!? Come on.

Want another list courtesy of Time? How about the top 10 Disney Controversies? Thanks to their most rescent, The Princess and The Frog, featuring a black princess (can I say that I'm sad that that's controversial and still be reasonably politically correct?), Disney has again made headlines. Some of the other ones are just plain funny.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Okay, so one thing leads to another and I'm looking at a bunch of the new trailers released this week.

Like Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Need I say more!?

Or how about Robin Hood. Another potential Ridley Scott of epic proportions?



Then there's Sherlock Holmes. What can I say? I can't wait.



Most of the time I shy away from all the hype but not this time. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has just way too many great actors and seems way too fun to ignore.

I like spy/thriller/espionage/puzzle movies. Salt could be one of those. Or not. Not sure.

I like movies.

I like good websites that help me find good movies. Found a new one tonight.

Anyone heard of anything else fun to look forward to?

A fun blog

Thanks to a friend of mine, I've been introduced to a fun blog called 22 Words. It's a self proclaimed experiment in getting to the point. I don't know that I'd be all that good at it.

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!



The first trailer for Iron Man 2 has been released and yes, I am excited. I've probably said it before but I'm a bit of a boy when it comes to my movies and I don't care. I mean, come on. Iron Man AND Don Cheadle. Seriously.

Marvel prefaces the trailer with this: "Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, aka the super hero Iron Man in this sequel to the 2008 blockbuster. RDJ, Paltrow, Cheadle and Rockwell are joined by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Mickey Rourke as Whiplash. Jon Favreau once again takes up the directorial reins for Marvel's armored avenger."

Now all I have to do is wait till May 7.

Your terrible Christmas joke for today

Thursday, December 10, 2009



So that's a teaser of one of my favorite Christmas shows. Of course, then there's the grinch...and Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer...and the Polar Express...Oh, Christmas specials...

What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Waiting for Christmas continued

Okay, so normally, I post and then, once it's out there, it's said and, well, gone. I think about it as I'm writing and the process helps me work through whatever is going on. The first Waiting on Christmas post got me thinking though. I haven't really been able to let it go. What you're about it get is the rest of the story.

Okay. Here goes...

It’s easy to live in survival mode. I know. I do it. It’s easy to get stuck in the mundane of the every day or, worse yet, in the difficulties of life and end up looking down instead of forward. It’s tiring. Exhausting even. If I were to give that survival state a color, it would be grey. Tiring, dreary gray.

One of the things I’ve been struck with as we enter this Christmas season is the contrast the season brings. We wait for Christmas. We live in expectation and anticipation. As soon as Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed us, we start up the decorating, the music , the baking, and the festivities. Parents play the “how many more sleeps game” with their kids and gift givers hold onto their secret purchases to be revealed. We make plans and parties. We take time and make preparations. Let the count down to Christmas begin.

There’s something healthy, even life giving, about anticipation. There’s the hope of something better than today – even if today isn’t half bad – and exciting. We look forward. We lift up our eyes passed what we’re experiencing right now and move forward, giving us a reason to live through today.

Perhaps that’s part of the magic, the gift, of Christmas. And why shouldn’t it be? The first Christmas was rich with anticipation. Hundreds of years of promise were fulfilled with the birth of a baby in a manger. All the potential that people dreamed of hung rich in the air. The hope of a better tomorrow, even if they didn’t know what that tomorrow looked like, filled hearts and minds and kept people living in a state of anticipation.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” Isaiah 9:6-7

That sounds a lot like they were waiting for something great to me…and that was a declaration of faith made hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth!

Then there’s the events surrounding His birth.

Joseph. An angel shows up to him and tells him that the child his fiancĂ© is expecting is the Son of God, the promised one. Matthew records the encounter this way: “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you ware to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” (Matthew 1:20-22) It gives the impression that this conversation came after Joseph found out Mary was expecting. I bet those days prior to the angel’s visit were some rough days, days filled with dread, fear, anger and resentment. Ever have one of those days? God didn’t want to leave him in that state though. He turned it around. I imagine the whole idea took a little getting used to but can only imagine the anticipation that would have entered after he understood the fullness of the angel’s words.

Mary. If you’re a mother, you understand Mary’s anticipation in a way the rest of us don’t. Nine months of preparation and anticipation. Nine months of changes. Nine months of new experiences leading to a lifetime of unknown. The movement of the child inside you. Loving the little one even before they arrive. Mary would have shared those emotions. Add an angels visit and the promise of prophecy she had waited for with her kinsmen all her fulfilled through her and one can only guess what she was feeling. We catch a glimpse of it in the book of Luke as she sings a song of praise and expectation (Luke 1:46-55). There is hope and awe in her words.

And there were others. The shepherds. The wise men. The whole of Israel waiting for the promised King, their redeemer.

Two thousand plus years later, we have the privilege of waiting in much the same way. Like Joseph, life sometimes – or most of the time – doesn’t turn out the way we want it to. It’s hard. There’s a whole range of emotions we wad through. But God doesn’t want to leave us there. He has a promise of something far better for us, wrapped up in the life of the same tiny baby, now a man, a King, Jesus.

Like Mary, we can hold to promises of what is to come. From the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, the we “wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:13)

I feel like so much of the promised return of Christ is an echo of his Christmas appearance in the human story. People waiting while living a life they didn’t plan, sometimes just surviving, anticipating the promise of a fulfillment of a promise.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I’m trying to look forward to that. To anticipate not just what could be but what will be. Waiting for Christmas and then some. We live as people who have seen a promise fulfilled – in Christ’s birth, life and death - and await the next in his resurrection.

Maybe that’s why Christmas makes me so excited. For a few weeks, I’m reminded to live in anticipation mode, a state of being full of color and life and energy, the way I truly want to live all year long. But it's hard. There's still those gray survival mode moments or even seasons.

I guess what I'm wondering now is how do I make the anticipation of Christmas and what I know to be the bigger story part of the rest of the year in those gray seasons.

Can Christmas be the start of something and not just a break from the ordinary?

Keepin' It Simple

If anyone wonders why I follow Jesus, I'm pretty sure all you need to do is hang around for one my passionate rants about the true simplicity of the Christian life. There aren’t a lot of rules, regulations and limitations to faith. In fact, I'd suggest that there's freedom to it if you really look at what's at the core. If you ask me, our job as Christians, as followers of Christ, as Jesus’ reflection to the world, is to love God and love people. Everything we do in life can and should be measured to that standard.

As a church body, I think our job is the same.

Love God.

Love people.

Each other. Our neighbors. Our coworker. Our boss. The mailman. The doctor. The dentist. Our teachers. Coaches. Fellow drivers on the Deerfoot.

Okay, maybe it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Sometimes I don’t want to love ‘those’ people. Sometimes it’s inconvenient. Sometimes it requires sacrifice and giving up things I don’t want to give up.

It does, however, free me up to be the person God has created me to be and to use the gifts that God has created me to use.

Living motivated by love for God and people seems much more simple and freeing than being motivated by rule keeping and ‘living within the lines.” I think that’s the way that Jesus wanted it.

In Matthew 11, Jesus reminds his listeners of this saying: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Right after saying this, he has a run in with the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, who were making faith about the rules instead about true heart of the matter (see Matthew 12). It seems to matter a lot to him that we focus on first things first and let that, his yoke or example of love, inform the way that we live, both for our own good and the good of those around us.

So as I live each day in interaction with the people around me, I'm trying to be look through the lens of love. I'm trying to simply be me, loving people, in spite of how I'm treated, how it might just come back to bite me in the bottom or what people expect or assume should be my response. I'm not there yet, at least not all the time, but I'm getting there. You know what I'm learning? It IS freeing. I don't have to play the games that I see being played around me. I don't have to wonder what my response should be. I don't have to second guess motives and no one has to second guess mine. I like that.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Current Read


Sepulchre, Kate Mosse

Waiting for Christmas To Come



Okay, so everyone that knows me knows that I LOVE Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. I love the music, the food, the time with family, thinking of good gifts to give, the celebration, the decorations...I love Christmas. Most of all, I love the reason to celebrate. I love to yearly take time to revel in the heart of it all.

This year, though, I'm finding that it just doesn't "feel" like Christmas. I'm not sure how to describe it. I've been listening to Christmas music and drinking eggnog. I've got gifts waiting to be wrapped. This weekend is set aside for cookie baking...and I've already gone through the first batch of caramel corn. The neighbors have their Christmas lights up although I must admit, my fear of cold has kept me from putting up any even though a) I know it's not cold out...not really and b) it is my first Christmas in my new house so I feel like I should.

Is this what happens as we get older? Does the "magic" of the season really go away...or am I just expecting it to happen too early?

Or perhaps it's part of a bigger question I've been wrestling with lately: where is joy found? I know it's part of the fruit of the Spirit. I know that Joy is found in Christ alone. In my head, I know where joy is found. What I want to know is how, in the busyness of life, does joy take up residence in my heart and in my life? When I'm tired and discouraged, how am I filled with joy?

For months, I've been confronted on what seems like every side with conversations and questions about what it means to live well. It's got me reflecting a lot on how I live my life. I admit it. I work a lot. As hard (and sad) as it is to admit, I don't really know what to do with myself when I'm not working. It's a good thing I enjoy both of my jobs most of the time. But is that what it means to live well? What things would I want as a part of my life when I think of living my life well? Are there things that I would change? What things fill me and fuel me so that I can approach the day to day "grind" with joy...not necessarily happiness but real deep joy and peace?

In the middle of all of this, I've been confronted with tragedy...and it's taken the conversation to a whole new level. Three beautiful girls were killed far too young, one of whom has had a great impact on my life and whom I am grateful to have been able to call a friend. She lived life well, in my opinion, and continues to impact lives in her death the way that she did in her life. Her memorial was a beautiful testimony to a live lived vibrantly, with an undeniable spark, and lived faithfully to her God. She was small but she lived big. Her life was short but her impact was of lasting influence. If I wasn't thinking about all of this before, I'm thinking about it now: what does it mean to live well?

So here I am, December 1, approaching the Christmas season, feeling a little bit tired, hoping that I am living well, and looking for a little bit of magic this season.

I know people make fun of me. Yes, I've been listening to Christmas music since November 1 and it was a moment of great excitement when I found Christmas at Starbucks. I love the decorations in the stores and the music through the speakers. I love shortbread and gingerbread and caramel popcorn, even if it means a few extra pounds. I love parties with friends and families...lots of get-togethers, laughing, stories and memories. I love that I can speak the name of Jesus as the reason that I celebrate in a very unique way throughout the season. I love Christmas. I'm waiting for Christmas to come.

As I'm writing this, it's dawned on me that maybe this is why: Christmas seems to be the season that gives me permission to live well and holds glimpses of the way that I want to live all year long. During the Christmas season, it seems like we all take a step towards living well, living better.

There is magic to be found. There is something to this season. There is a reason to be waiting for Christmas and to be praying that the things we learn and the things we love about the season can invade our every day, day to day lives.

Life.

Love.

Joy.

Peace.

Grace.

Hope.

To everyone out there...thanks!

It's a little weird to think that there's people that actually read what I post on here.

Out of curiosity, I added a tracker to my blog months ago. It just tells me how many people visit the blog each day (which in turn tells me how many people I need to apologize to for my mostly mindless posting!) and where they're from. I rarely check it but thought it would be fun today. You know what I found out? Not only do people read it but they're spread all over the globe! Cities and countries I've never visited. Places I don't think I know people.

How bizarre!

I'm not sure how y'all found me but thanks! I'll try to post a few more things worth reading in the near future!!

The Power of Pruning

Pruning. In my opinion there is very little about this word that is pleasant. Nearly every connotation that the word creates in my head is negative. The actual definition of the word, “to lop off or cut off,” is scary. At dictionary.com you can look up related words like the pruning hook, pruning shears, pruning saw and the pruning knife. No thank you—I think. Pruning is a mysterious process. You would think that if you cut back a shrub or tree that it would suffer from the process. Not so! About a month ago, I purposefully lopped off some branches on a potted basil plant I keep on the back patio. The new growth that the pruning created was nothing short of incredible. That little plant was transformed.

On a more personal note, some of the greatest pruning seasons of my life have produced some of the greatest growth periods of my life. To experience a lopping off or some measure of cutting back is never pleasant. But when those seasons are submitted to the Creator, this mysterious process often produces growth. And to the open and submissive recipient, the pruning can be truly transformational on many levels.

Here are some truths I’ve leaned in the midst of being cut back, cut off or pruned.

1. There are some truths that can only be learned in seasons of lack. You cannot learn them at any other time. They are not available to you in any other season.

2. These rare and precious truths are scattered and just under the surface of the dry and barren soils of lack. If you are paying attention, you will discover them and they will serve you well for the rest of your life.

3. These truths are like pure gold that pay exponential dividends. They guide us in the lean times and bless us in times of plenty.

4. Whining and complaining about your lack or having been pruned blinds you to the presence of these truths. You’ll never see them and you’ll miss the transformational riches that would have provided you with new growth.

There is much that we can learn about ourselves, others and our God in the pruning season. The truth is the pruning process is a necessary process in order for us to blossom and flourish in our relationship with Him and with others.

Simply Missional

Written by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger

It was early in the morning when they came. There were two short knocks at the door and, when it opened, a polite greeting from one of the police officers standing in the stairwell.

Dell Computers has shattered the warehouse myth. Most companies love big warehouses. They feel safe with lots of inventory on large shelves in massive warehouses, always ready for that next order. In their minds, the well-stocked warehouse confirms the belief that they will always be able to meet customer demands and customer expectations.

Dell disagrees with the warehouse approach. In the technology business, the product literally rots in value on the shelves. Because Dell does not want their best resources on the shelves, they only keep two hours of inventory. Which means that if you order a PC on Dell.com, the parts will not arrive to Dell until two hours before your PC is shipped to you.

Dell wants their resources out there, on the street. Not in the warehouse, where the resources merely gather dust and produce no impact. So Dell has designed a very strategic process to move their resources to the street. Sadly, many churches are betting their futures on the warehouse myth.

Most churches build big warehouses and shelve a bunch of Christians (those rows look suspiciously like shelves). They design attractive programs to "retain" people in the sacred warehouse, keep precise records of how much inventory (people) is on the shelves and brag about their warehouses being constantly open. And warehouse managers love to show other warehouse managers their newest warehouses while dreaming together of bigger and better warehouses.

God is calling churches to shatter the warehouse myth, to change their warehouses into strategic distribution centers, where people are distributed as salt and light to the world. Some churches are strategically challenging their people to be out there, and these churches have a simple process that moves people from the warehouse to the street. These churches are simple and missional.

They are simply missional. We are often asked if there is a relationship between our two books, Breaking the Missional Code and Simple Church. Is there a relationship between a church being missional and a church being simple? Read Full Story »

Current Read

Walking with God, John Eldredge
"Shared laughter creates a bond of friendship. When people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, master and pupils, worker and driver. They become a single group of human beings, enjoying their existence."
W. Grant Lee